Michael Erxleben / Claus Peter Flor

Schostakowitsch: Symphony No. 9; Violin Concerto No. 1

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If it was closing time at the Shostakovich Bar and Grill and all the other listeners had already gone home with Kondrashin's or Jansons' or Gergiev's ninth symphonies or with Oistrakh's or Kogan's or Kremer's first violin concertos, it might be time to consider this cute little East German coupling of the Ninth Symphony with the First Violin Concerto. Conducted by Leipzig-born Claus Peter Flor and performed by the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester with the concerto played by Dresden-born soloist Michael Erxleben, these performances are energetic, enthusiastic, and exuberant, but not especially subtle and not particularly polished. The Ninth Symphony has plenty of drive and color, but sounds considerably less ironic than in Russian performances, while the First Violin Concerto has a lot of intensity and vivacity, but sounds altogether less melancholy than in Russian performances. Although neither this 1987 recording of the symphony nor the 1990 recording of the concerto may be first choices when the night is young, when it's quarter to three, they may both start to sound pretty good. Berlin Classics' early digital recordings are, if a bit hard around the edges, also surprisingly clean and direct.

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